BY NADIA GERASSIMENKO
At Luna Luna Magazine, Lana Del Rey is our patron saint, our muse, our guardian fallen angel. Her persona mystifies us, her aura entrances us, and her dark energy compels us. It's Lana’s heavy, downcast, vulnerable neo-ambient vibes we adore so much. And the songs, like those of childhood youth, feel like they were uncannily orchestrated just for us. So, we all decided to share our thoughts and feelings about which of LDR's songs we feel profoundly connected with—our own life anthems.
Alaina Leary on Summertime Sadness
I connect with it for so many reasons. The first time I heard it, it was actually my cousin singing the lyrics over and over again, and this was in the summer of 2014. I felt that it was the perfect way to capture how *she* was feeling at the time. My cousin and I are very close, but she lives in Texas and only visits a few times a year. Her parents both passed away, and she feels really distant from the family besides me. So hearing those lyrics from her lips was really striking. We were walking in the dark and she was just singing “I've got that summertime, summertime sadness” over and over again while my dad and her husband walked ahead of us a few paces. A few days later I heard the full song on the radio, and I loved it. I really relate it to my cousin, not necessarily me, but I began to relate to parts of the song myself.
“I'm feelin’ electric tonight / Cruising down the coast goin’ ‘bout 99 / Got my bad baby by my heavenly side / I know if I go, I'll die happy tonight.” In the fall after that summer, I had to read Play it as It Lays by Joan Didion for class. The protagonist reminded me of a combination of my cousin and I, but a lot more outwardly vapid. I loved reading her story, though—the protagonist was cynical, and sad, and had no outward control of her life. I think we all feel that way sometimes. The character would get in her car and just drive as fast as possible. She had to get an abortion and this was during a time when abortions weren't legal, and women didn't have many rights. I felt that song was so attached to her, and although I've never gone through an abortion, I am a rape survivor, and I can relate to that feeling and that lyric, about just wanting to drive away from your problems. It's all about control, to me, the song and the character, and they're one and the same in my mind.
Patricia Grisafi on Gods and Monsters
Every so often, I get the urge to self-destruct in the most extravagant ways. I’ll fantasize about quitting my job in a fiery rage, getting drunk in some dark corner of the East Village, sending hostile letters to friends and enemies, picking fights in the street, crashing a concert and screaming on the stage, and then going to Alaska for a week and working on an alpaca farm. In my fantasy, the alpaca farm will soothe whatever perverse imp got inside, and I’ll return home rested, with beautiful skin.
Lana Del Rey’s Gods and Monsters speaks to me, especially when I start to feel emotionally itchy. The song details a woman’s quest to find experience at any cost. For the woman, self-destruction is necessary in order to live a full, authentic life: “In the land of Gods and Monsters / I was an angel / Looking to get fucked hard.” While she might be referring to rough sex—it’s Lana, after all—she’s also referring to a journey in which she dares life to happen in all its dirty, beautiful, terrifying, and transcendent splendor. She’s the brave author of her own voyage from innocence to experience.
The line “Living like Jim Morrison / Headed towards a fucked up holiday” resonates with me not because I particularly like Jim Morrison, but I like the myth of glorious destruction that he represents. We all want to take fucked up holidays, even if it’s just too many glasses of Malbec and tall tales at the local pub or writing the word “bitch” on the kitchen floor in mustard and then sobbing in it for a few hours. In another reality, Del Rey surely owns a boutique travel agency; “Fucked Up Holidays by Lana” would make a killing. I know I’d book a trip.
Trista Edwards on This Is What Makes Us Girls
I’ve hit my thirtieth year. Yes, this is young, but I do reflect on that ethereal mood of caprice and impulse of my 20s—an era of my life that is, in fact, gone. The thing is, I often still feel 20—consumed by whimsy and wanderlust with skeptic eye on authority and a disdain for rules. Lana’s This Is What Makes Us Girls has always represented this feeling for me. This song is so particularly youthful. It is for those girls who drink too much, dance on tables, break into the hotel pool. It is for those girls who only have time to care about the here and now. The girls Lana sings about in this song have always been me and not me. The girl that I am and the girl I want to be. While I have done my share of “bad girl” antics, I always feel I can be as “bad” as the girls in this song. I look up to them. They are my heroes that constantly remind me as I let the surrounding world, career, and age wrap certain restrictions around me I will never lose my lust for breaking into a pool that’s not mine, to strip down to my bikini, drink cheap beer as I float around to the sounds of a nearby radio, and smile up into the sky thinking how even the slightest rebellion feels so good.
I always imagine the opening lines as Lana calling me to action—“Remember how we used to party up all night / Sneaking out and looking for a taste of real life / Drinking in the small town firelight.” There is something about having a night of complete disregard and that conquest for “real life.” To me this song is about the chase. Winning doesn’t matter; it is about the seeking, the doing, the living, the transgressing.
This song also encapsulates beauty of demise. It also illustrates the decline of youth and the destructive powers of love, both romantic and of girlhood bonds. I feel this particular moment in our lives is a sick passion we both desire and repent. It is that moment of realization that you can’t have it all. Lana sings “This is what makes us girls / We don’t stick together ‘cause we put our love first / Don’t cry about him, don’t cry about him / It’s all gonna happen.” It does all happen; we learn sacrifice and that sacrifice is always parts of ourselves. This song reminds me of all my former selves from my younger years and makes me not forget to be one of those selves from time to time.
Nadia Gerassimenko on Ride
The way I interpret Ride by Lana Del Rey is that she’s a lost soul trying to find herself and her ground whether it is through the people—particularly older, experienced men—she meets or through her impromptu travels without a set destination. Wishing, hoping that something or someone could fill the hungry void inside her, that feeling of home she’s missing. She’s different, paradoxical even. She belongs to everyone and yet to no one. She wants to know what home feels like, but she needs her freedom too. There’s a continuous dichotomy between her two very different selves. The one that wants to belong. And the other that wants to be free. Can the two be able to co-exist one day and end “the war in…[her] mind?”
I’ve always felt lost myself. Like I didn’t belong in this world, in this time, in this society. If for a moment I would experience peace and contentedness with my life and my immediate milieu, the sensation would be fleeting and I would eventually revert back to feeling insatiable and melancholic. Perhaps it didn’t help me to be made of two contradictory natures. One being the down-to-earth, restrained, tentative pragmatist fighting with the dreamy, creative, and unconventional maverick. I cannot help but relate to one particular segment of the lyrics the most in Ride: “I'm tired of feeling like I'm fucking crazy / I'm tired of driving 'til I see stars in my eyes / It's all I've got to keep myself sane, baby / So I just ride, I just ride.” The exasperation of trying to control the constant, conflicting chatter in my mind. The exhaustion of trying to find the balance between my yin and yang and discover my true self and accept and love me as I am. Be one with myself and everything around me. But I am not one to ever give up, so like Lana, I just ride.
In the end, the Lana in Ride found her persons—the misfits, the free people, the on-the-roaders, just like her. With them by her side, she found herself. She admits she’s crazy, but she is free. She accepted herself wholly. And if ever she feels at war with herself, she knows what to do. (“I just ride.”) I also found myself, my harmony and happiness, my oneness with the universe. I learned that it is something I must find within me and that it’s always a work in progress. One cannot feel happy and complete all the time.
Leza Cantoral on Brooklyn Baby
A year and a half ago I hopped on a train to New York City. I lied to my parents and said I was going to check out colleges but really I was going for love. I knew he was the one. Well, I was pretty damn sure that he was. We were outside the train station staring at each other, finally in the flesh after months of phone conversations that extended deep into the night, and I was chain smoking for lack of a better coping method. He noticed my feet in their sandals and could not believe how tiny they were. He asked me if he could see and I slipped my foot out of its sandal and he knelt down and held my foot that was not much larger than his hand. He stared at it incredulously and made some cute remarks I do not remember now. An old black man passed by and saw the little tableau and simply exclaimed “Aw hell no!” As if we were engaging in some seriously kinky behavior. Fourth wall was broken and we both burst out laughing. That night we did the deed and the next day it was like we had always been together.
He’s the one that introduced me to Lana Del Rey. He could not believe I had not heard her. He said “You must have heard Summertime Sadness on the radio. Lana is totally your girl.” He played Ultraviolence for me and I fell in love HARD. I will forever associate that whole album with moving to New York and falling in love. That whole summer all I listened to was Lana Del Rey. There were certain songs and certain lines in particular that I really connected with.
The line that always made me choke up was: “They judge me like a picture book / By the colors, like they forgot to read.” From Brooklyn Baby. It was hard not to cry every time I heard it.
That line is the story of my life from day one. As a Mexican-American-bisexual-Jewish girl, I have never felt like I fit in and I have always been judged by my surface. When I was in Mexico I was too white, and when I moved here I was not white enough. I am always terrified in social situations so I drink too much and act extroverted to calm down and often end up coming off as a loud-mouthed exhibitionist. I love deep conversation so I make eye contact and that scares people. People are either put off or drawn to me. There is no in between. I have always been judged in some way or another and it drives me nuts. It always breaks my heart that people cannot see that my intentions are good and that I just want to connect. My surface is just my body, it is not my soul.
That summer was a great awakening for me. Being loved and accepted by him shattered a spell of sadness and alienation that had enveloped me in an angry fog for many years. I felt happy. I felt like myself. I could be myself with him and I saw that he accepted me as I was. I had reached a point, right before embarking on my trip to NYC, where I had finally finished a long overdue BA thesis and kicked the most abusive boyfriend I had ever dated, in a long cycle of abusive boyfriends, to the curb. It was a massive turning point for me.
Lana was like my spiritual midwife. I was reborn with Ultraviolence as my soundtrack. I felt like I was me and I had my voice back and I blissfully would sing along to Brooklyn Baby as we drove in his car. I felt new and happy and free and I would always grin when I sang, “Yeah my boyfriend’s pretty cool, but he’s not as cool as me, ‘cause I’m a Brooklyn baby.”
Tiffany Chaney on Once Upon a Dream
Several songs of Lana Del Rey's resonate with me deeply. I feel as a wandering soul holding a moment that is broken and reflective intimately to my chest, moving forward and yet backward at the same time. The songs are layered. I have so much of her work to explore. I found myself recently listening to newer releases (especially while writing) and am getting to know those better. I associate aspects of Summertime Sadness (I love “sizzling like a snare”) and Burning Desire with past loves and those poetic time periods of my life. The one song that I will play over and over again is Once Upon a Dream, Lana's version that was done for Maleficent.
“I know you, I walked with you once upon a dream / I know you, that look in your eyes is so familiar a gleam / And I know it's true that visions are seldom all they seem.” This gets me. It's her intonations of “I know you...” It's in the *atmosphere* of such a supposedly simple song. It's cyclical like time and memory...All so familiar, this walk. I feel the alto within my chest, reverberating. Something old here at work. Like past lives. Like the too familiar patterns we enact with others, how entangled we are. How I feel when I sing the song, empowering, knowing, bittersweet, and timeless…
It is hard to choose, but Lana's music is about flowing through it all—adding a new layer of understanding every time you revisit a moment...Why you are haunted and why you continue to let yourself be.
I know you—sometimes I feel like I've known others so much more than myself…Being the listener. Have I truly listened to myself, though? Yes, and no. Have I walked with myself? How am I looking at this? Dream or no, lifetimes ago or not...Visions are seldom all they seem. It's in the humming of the song. That ancient buzzing within the chest...Sylvia Plath's Bell Jar says it right: “I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart: I am, I am, I am.” Yes, this is the same thing.
(I feel so much at once, especially as an empath or as a Highly Sensitive Person or a poet or whatever you want to call it…This is about the path of feeling for me.)